Just like California, France has been suffering from droughts since July. It is a challenge linked to climate change, which requires farmers to modify their usage and professional practices in order to address the water supply problems arising due to droughts, but also to work on a daily basis to ensure the balanced management of water resources. From reducing consumption to the use of new technologies, here are some examples of the solutions implemented.
In California, the issue of water is becoming a structural problem as the State is currently dealing with its fourth summer of drought. Aware of the importance of conserving this resource, Californian farmers are taking action through a voluntary initiative to reduce their water consumption. Since May, around a hundred farmers from the Sacramento Delta have voluntarily chosen to reduce their water consumption by 25% in an effort to prevent the implementation of more substantial mandatory restrictions.
While the challenge is more of a short-term issue in France, it is no less crucial for a sector that is heavily dependent on the state of water resources. Since July, measures to limit water usage have been imposed in a number of French departments; the levels of restriction range from the definition of time slots for the watering of green spaces, to the banning of usage for agricultural purposes.
In order to cope with these restrictions, which are affecting an increasing number of regions worldwide, innovative solutions are being developed to better manage water consumption in the agricultural sector. One such solution, called RegControl, makes it possible to establish a smart irrigation system by automatically providing the plant with the water and fertilisers it needs, at the right time and in the right quantity. Developed by SUEZ, this solution has, for example, been implemented at Lérida in Spain, where it is used to irrigate 250 hectares of vines. This management software collects data through sensors positioned in the soil, and this data is then used to calculate and control the daily irrigation schedule. This auto-irrigation system not only helps to maintain the quality of the vines, but it also reduces costs in terms of water and energy use.
The data thus becomes the lever for more economical water consumption in agriculture.
The example of optimised irrigation at Lérida:
Another solution to combat water stress during periods of drought is the production of alternative sources of water. In Italy, the city of Milan has opted to implement a system for reusing wastewater to irrigate crops, including during periods of drought. The process is based on the disinfection of wastewater using ultraviolet light, on top of traditional treatment processes, which ensures that the treated water is safe and can be used in truck gardening. This technology thus provides the means to irrigate 22,000 hectares of agricultural land.
Milan San Rocco wastewater treatment plant
While close to 70% of the water consumed worldwide is used in agriculture, well ahead of consumption by industry and private individuals, and against the backdrop of dwindling resources, the development of new solutions and practices is essential if we are to produce more with less, and thereby meet the food needs of the world’s population.